ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Illegal Land, Illegal People'

The Chengara Land Struggle in Kerala

Landless dalits and adivasis have occupied parts of a corporate rubber plantation at Chengara in Kerala for fi ve years. Despite being pressurised in various ways, they have held out, sticking to their demand of land for them to pursue livelihoods. None of the agreements so far reached with the state government has been satisfactorily implemented. Yet, the issues raised by the Chengara struggle have a social and economic signifi cance that no government can afford to ignore.

August 2012 marks five years of a land struggle where hundreds of landless families continue to ­occupy parts of a Harrisons Malayalam rubber plantation in Chengara in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. An agreement between the leadership of the struggle and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in October 2009 offered land to all the landless occupants. It is yet to be fully implemented. The big challenge to both the struggle and the state government is finding a legal solution to this impasse.

Compared to other parts of India, the dalit community in Kerala has had some positive experiences in terms of social development. However, events in recent times have revealed that even after achieving progress on some fronts, there has been no fundamental change in their basic condition. The main reason for this is that the marginalised lack access to land and resources to earn a livelihood. This disadvantage has been attributed to the failure of Kerala’s land reforms. Of late, the issue of landlessness has been aggravated by the pro­cesses of land acquisition. Critiques of land reforms from a dalit perspective cite the continuing existence of large plantations and private agriculturalists in a state that is small in size and big in population as the most important fallout of the failure of land reforms.

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